Harsh words have been traded between Canada and Saudi Arabia, starting with online urges and quickly turning into definitive action — Saudi Arabia demanding the exodus of the Canadian ambassador from their country, pulling all scholarships from their students in Canada, and even suspending flights to the North American country.

What spurred this off? Why did it escalate so quickly?

It started with Amnesty International’s condemnation of the arrest of two female human rights activists in Saudi Arabia — Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada. They were detained after a history of harassment, travel restrictions and other methods used to attempt to shut them down.

Samar Badawi is a particularly important name, as she is the sister of Raif Badawi. Raif has long been a voice of dissent against the Saudi government, and has been arrested several times and punished with years in prison (which has been extended), on top of a sentencing of 1000 lashes, which is supposed to be carried out over time (he has already been subjected to a public flogging). Raif’s family now lives in Canada and has attained Canadian citizenship; he has been in a Saudi prison since 2012.